“We are so proud of the mindset shift that community members were able to make as a result of our engagement process. Communities are now open to initiatives and positively empowered to take their development into their own hands,” says Amelia Visagie, Aurecon Manager, Communication and Stakeholder Engagement.
In association with their new mining project in Mokopane, Limpopo, Ivanhoe Mines South African subsidiary Ivanplats has created the Bonega Communities Trust (“the Trust”). A corporate social initiative, they have endowed the Trust with funds aimed at promoting development within 20 communities surrounding the mine. Recognising that there is a fine line between philanthropic donations and empowering communities to start their own initiatives, the Trust decided to embark on a process to identify the most prevalent needs in the community and establish a pipeline of various projects for community benefit, which it could fund.
In May 2018, Aurecon was appointed by the Trust to conduct an Asset Mapping process in the 20 communities to identify initiatives that had the potential to benefit a number of people in each village. The Aurecon Communication and Stakeholder Engagement team engaged community members through focus group meetings and surveys to find out which projects would result in community-owned initiatives and, at the same time, could lead to sustainable development.
One of the challenges that the project team had to deal with was distrust and skeptical communities, caused by a number of factors such as language and cultural barriers, as well as political instigators who wanted to derail the process.
To overcome these challenges, Aurecon used the ABCD (Asset Based Community Development) approach. This ground-breaking method of development promotes sustainability by using assets and skills within communities, so that community members can explore possibilities of establishing future projects to improve their own livelihoods. Aurecon was able to identify community-run projects as well as champions for these projects. The surveys assisted with verifying information gathered during focus group discussions. Aurecon worked with community members to enable grassroots empowerment, and created a structured plan for community members to plan long- and short-term sustainable objectives.
All research data captured was digitised via surveys on smartphone devices and displayed on a live, interactive dashboard that made use of graphs and illustrations to reflect rich data about the communities. A unique, unplanned result of the project was the creation of community knowledge databases that contain comprehensive data on assets and other information on the communities.
“The Aurecon team was able to undertake community Asset Mapping on a large scale despite significant challenges. Not only did they deliver a report based on the brief from the client, Bonega Communities Trust, but they also built relationships with local people and helped to equip them with skills that can be used beyond the Asset Mapping process,’ said Lisl Fair, Group Manager, Social and Investment at Ivanhoe Mines SA.